The Savannah, Georgia, small-business community has not blinked when it comes to reopening the economy in the wake of the coronavirus. Although Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s decision to “reopen” Georgia in advance of most other states in the country was greeted inside and outside the state with a great deal of trepidation, the coastal community is rising to the challenge.
Savannah’s hospitality industry plays a huge role in the local economy, although it is not as outsized as many investors unfamiliar with the area might expect. Thanks to the location of Georgia’s Port of Savannah in the area, the economy has actually been more insulated from the COVID-spurred downswing than many other areas of the country. The presence of one of the country’s largest seaports has kept many households afloat, employed as “essential” while other industries foundered.
However, Savannah’s small-business and hospitality industry does play a major role in the city’s economic welfare, so it was good to see reports that the riverside city’s businesses, restaurants, and even some recreational areas were reopening under careful guidelines and scrutiny in the wake of the end of Georgia’s extended “stay-home” mandate. Many local boutiques are offering private shopping appointments and closing their doors periodically throughout the day for top-to-bottom cleanings, while the local sightseeing tours have resumed with new social-distancing guidelines.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah River recreation areas will begin to reopen in mid-May following a “thorough cleaning of restrooms, showers, and other common use areas.” Many boat ramps will reopen around the same time, and visitors may use the restrooms at the ramps if they bring their own soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. Although the state of Georgia is in the process of a full economic reopen, playgrounds remain closed at this time.
Georgia was one of the first states to lift stay-at-home restrictions in a bid to reboot the state economy. So far, the state has seen new COVID-19 cases climb but not spike. In fact, the rate of new cases in the state appeared to have plateaued as of mid-May. This is good news for Savannah and every city in the state. University of Georgia ecology professor John Drake estimates Georgia’s stay-at-home measures in March could have reduced COVID-19 cases by 81 percent. If easing restrictions can be accomplished in a safe, effective way, the state will likely move ahead of other states with similar industries when it comes to attracting businesses to Georgia in the future.